Arigna Mining Experience

Arigna Coal Mine


Useful Information

Location: At Arigna, northern Co Roscommon, at the borders to Sligo and Leitrim.
From Sligo N4 towards Carrick-on-Shannon. After Boyle turn left at Ardcarne Garden Centre sign. Follow road through Keadue, at road fork take left route. After 4 km at a pub called McRanns turn left. Then follow signs.
(54.077601, -8.120747)
Open: All year daily 10-18.
Last tour 17.
Online booking required!
[2021]
Fee: Full tour incl. mine tour: Adults EUR 13, Children (5-18) EUR 7, Seniors EUR 11, Students (18-) EUR 11, Family (2+2) EUR 35.
Groups (20+): Adults EUR 9, Children (5-18) EUR 6.50, Seniors EUR 8.50.
[2021]
Classification: MineCoal Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension:  
Guided tours: D=40 min.
Photography:  
Accessibility: Exhibition: yes.
Mine: no
Bibliography: Matthew Parkes, Robert Meehan, Sophie Préteseille (2012): The Geological Heritage of Roscommon. An audit of County Geological Sites in Roscommon. Geological Survey of Ireland. Unpublished Report. online
Address: Arigna Mining Experience Co. Ltd., Enterprise Centre, Arigna, Derreenavoggy, Carrick-On-Shannon, Co. Roscommon N41 YP78, Tel: +353-71-9646466, Fax: +353-71-9646466. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

Middle Ages start of iron mining.
16th century smelting of iron started.
16?? iron works built by Charles Coote at Crevelea and Arigna.
1641 iron works destroyed during the 1641 rebellion and subsequently rebuilt.
1690 timber ran out and iron works were closed.
1765 start of coal mining.
1788 O'Reilly brothers rebuilt a new iron works.
1838 iron works closed.
1958 Arigna Power Station built.
1990 coal mine closed.
FEB-1999 chimney of the ESB Generating Station demolished.
23-APR-2003 Arigna Mining Experience opened, Ireland's first coal mining museum.
2019 visitor centre extended with café, gift shop and dedicated audio visual area.

Geology

The coal seam are found in rocks of Upper Carboniferous age, from the Westphalian Stage, also known as the Coal Measures. Coal horizons formed in a deltaic environment interbedded by sandstones, siltstones, and mudstones. The coal has given its name to the Carboniferous time period. Ireland has several coalfield areas, which are widespread and have been extensively mined. Arigna is one of the two largest deposits, the other is Castlecomer in Kilkenny.

Description

Arigna Coal Mine is (in-)famous for having the narrowest coal seams in the western world. Seams of 45 cm were mined, by miners lying on their side to shovel the coal out. Obviously not the best position for competition in a shrinking world. However, the coal mining lasted until 1990, the coal was used for iron works and later for a power plant. With the demolition of the ESB Generating Station chimney, the era of the coal ended.

The mining history at Arigna started in the Middle Ages with the mining of iron. East of Lough Allen lies a mountain called Slieve Anierin, which translates to Iron Mountain. At the beginning of the 17th century, the iron was smelted at Arigna in new built iron works, using charcoal, which was burnt from the wood of the forests around. But as no organised tree planting took place and the timber eventually ran out, the iron works had to be closed at the end of the 17th century. More than half a century later, in 1765, the mining of the coal deposits started, and again 30 years later the smelting was revived using the local coal instead of charcoal. This iron works closed finally in 1838, as they were not very successful.

But coal mining continued and provided work for the people in the area. The coal was used to heat homes and hospitals, and to power steam engines. In 1958 the Arigna Power Station was opened to produce electricity. It was the first major power generating station in Connacht. The station was built specifically to burn the semi bituminous coal with its high ash content. At its height, the power station burned 55,000 tons of coal per year and employed 60 people. Like in other coal mining areas of Europe, the main goal of this power station was to secure the jobs in the local mining industry. During the internationalization process during the mid 20th century, foreign coal from much bigger and easier to mine deposits became much cheaper than loacl coal. At the end of the 1980s the power station was shut down, and without its main buyer the mine closed in 1990.

Because of the thin coal seams, a special type of mining was practised at Arigna. A main tunnel was driven from which branched a series of secondary tunnels every 5-6 meters, were the coal was mined. The secondary tunnels followed the seams and were rather low. The miners typically worked lying on their back to cut the coal. This Cutters or Brushers also prepared the mine for the next days work, extended the roads and used explosives. Drawers filled hutches and pushed them out to the main underground mine road. Here the hutches were linked up to the haulage system, an endless rope, and pulled to the outside. Sometimes small diesel locomotives were used to pull hutches out of the pit. Proppers used timber pillars to prop up the mine roof.

The Arigna Mining Experience consists of an exhibition and an optional underground tour. The underground tour is guided by former miners, who are able to answer any kind of questions on the coal mining process. This tour is a little difficult, as the mine is often very low. Actually it was even lower originally, the floor was lowered for the sake of the visitors. And visitors get helmets to protect their heads. Lighting and sound effects throughout the mine are intended to add to the reality of the experience.